We're Controlling The Wrong Bodies

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
B&M Noskowski/Getty

Why are women’s bodies always up for discussion and control?

When I was 24 years old I had an abortion. I was in love with my best friend, he was in love with drugs. I convinced him that I could handle our friends-with-benefits situation, because I knew he didn’t want anything more than that. It’s not what I wanted, but I was very good at loving the exact wrong man at that time in my life.

I got pregnant (yes, I was on the pill at the time). He didn’t want a baby, but thanks to his strict Catholic upbringing he didn’t want me to have an abortion, either. I was in no position to care for a child, and in my heart of hearts I knew being tethered to this man for the rest of my life was a very bad idea. Turns out I didn’t need to explain this to him, because he stopped answering my calls. I saved the $200 I needed for the procedure and my sister took me to the clinic. I didn’t hear from him for years. We never spoke about it.

He didn’t have to find a clinic and have a consultation. He didn’t have to sit alone when the clinic worker told him the pregnancy test was indeed positive. He didn’t have to travel back to the clinic with his sister and take the valium they offered before the procedure. He didn’t have to lay on a table and look up at the ceiling at a Monet poster while they shot another sedative into his arm, and have that poster with its lady in a large hat holding an umbrella be burned on his brain for all of eternity. He didn’t have to know the feeling of tears streaming down his numb face while his sister held his hand.

He didn’t have to experience any of this.

He also didn’t have to sit in the clinic’s recovery room, surrounded by a few other women. One looked to be no older than 13 and kept throwing up. One was around my age. One was about 17. No one spoke. He didn’t have to silently ride back to San Francisco in the car with me. It was Halloween night in the Castro, and the parade livened up the streets around us as we drove to my sister’s apartment in Noe Valley. He didn’t have to stare at the costumes and come to hate the holiday. He didn’t have to bleed. He didn’t have to wonder if he’d ever be able to have a child again. He didn’t have to do any of it. The only thing he had to do was come inside of me and reprimand me for considering an abortion. Then disappear.

It’s heavy to be a woman. The world is heavy. All the things we have to do are so damn heavy.

Women get pregnant and they’re told they should’ve been on better birth control. Or they should’ve been sure the man was wearing a condom. Or they should’ve never “opened their legs” to begin with. All of the responsibility of the choices that come with having a sexual experience are placed on our shoulders — until we get pregnant. Then magically — we should have no say at all.

Which one is it? Is it totally our responsibility and meant to be handled alone, by us, or do we all of a sudden have no right to make choices about what happens in our bodies?

When we are talking about a pregnancy resulting from a heterosexual sexual experience, a woman cannot become pregnant unless a man ejaculates inside her. He has to be an enthusiastic participant in order for any of this to go down. Yet women have always been the bearers of the contraceptive burden — in most part thanks to the pill. We still don’t have a birth control pill for men, largely because in clinical trials, they couldn’t handle the same side effects we experience every day. Women can be forced to deal with side effects like blood clots, high cholesterol, weight gain, and mood fluctuations — but when researchers were faced with the possibility that a male pill could hinder libido, they called it.“The issue was that whenever the attempt was to try to come up with a medication, the side effects profile was too demanding or taxing,” Dr. Tomer Singer, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthline. “Mainly the decrease in libido, increase in erectile dysfunction — that basically goes hand in hand with the same hormones, [such as] testosterone, that are responsible for sperm production.” We protect men at all costs, while constantly telling women they have total responsibility for what happens before they get pregnant, but no say in what happens after.

“If a woman has sex with 100 random men in a year, she can still only produce one full term pregnancy. If a guy has sex with 100 random women in a year, he can produce 100 full term pregnancies. So why exactly are we only talking about regulating women?” This tweet is going viral right now. It has over a half a million “likes” and nearly 200k retweets. We seem to know at our cores that men are the ones predominantly responsible for pregnancies, but it’s something that remains unspoken.

After the Georgia House voted to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, a Democratic lawmaker in Georgia introduced the “Testicular Bill of Rights Legislation.” Among other things, it would ban vasectomy procedures in Georgia and require DNA testing when a woman is six weeks and one day pregnant to determine the father of the child, who would immediately start paying child support.

Clearly she was just trying to make a point, but people were quick to note that you could not restrict a man’s reproductive choices like that. “I might just be rational or something but the prevention of pregnancy is a touch different than the prevention of childbirth don’t’cha think,” one male commenter responded to the legislation. To which a woman replied, “I’d like to point out that the prevention of pregnancy does in fact prevent childbirth.”

We’re so used to women’s bodies being regulated and up for discussion that we don’t even blink when it happens. We currently have three entire states that think it’s a better idea to go back before Roe v Wade, when women were dying because they didn’t have access to safe, legal termination options. But bring up a bill that would regulate a choice men make regarding their bodies and it’s immediately recognized as satire — or something that would never pass. Why?

I had two c-sections, one of them was an emergency. I developed a hernia that occasionally still, eight years after the birth of my first child, makes me feel like my insides are twisting up in knots when I move certain ways. My abs never entirely fused back together. I have an additional flap of skin on my stomach that is probably never going anywhere. And I wanted these kids. Imagine forcing a woman to change her body like that? We would never expect that of a man. Never.

It took me 20 years to share my abortion story because we live in a culture of “morality” that seeps into everything — even if you’re not religious. I spent five years struggling with infertility, and even in my rational, atheist core there was a little voice whispering “you gave up your only chance. This is your fault.” The micro-aggressions women constantly live with put that voice there – not any true belief that I had failed some sort of moral test. You could never convince me that abortion is a moral issue — not when you see the people who fight against it, who would better serve their “god” pouring their energy into helping kids in foster care, giving a shit about the migrant children who are sitting in detention centers in our own country, or reaching out to homeless children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Men are just as responsible for pregnancies as we are, and if our bodies are to be regulated, so too, should theirs. And if you don’t like abortion – just ignore it like you ignore the thousands of children sitting in foster care in this country every single day.

See, it’s easy.

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